Optimistic England face most intimidating test yet
Euro 2012: Donetsk
Ukraine has spent a staggering £3.5bn on hosting Euro 2012. And after encountering so many problems on their five-year journey to staging the tournament, there is a huge desire here not to join co-hosts Poland in leaving the party early.
This young nation's path to political stability is still a work in progress but leaders here have called on the whole country to unite behind the team.
With so much riding on Tuesday's final Group D game against England, the atmosphere in the Donbass Arena is likely to be the most intimidating Roy Hodgson's men have faced so far. It will certainly be noisier than when they got their campaign under way with the 1-1 draw against France last Monday.
The Donbass Arena in Donetsk was paid for by Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov. Photo: Reuters
Donetsk's position on the far eastern side of Ukraine means that, culturally and politically, it tends to look east and towards Russia. That won't stop the gleaming new stadium - paid for by Rinat Akhmetov, the country's wealthiest man - feeling like a hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism against England.
Hodgson said in his pre-match news conference that he wasn't unduly worried about how his players would handle the atmosphere. He argued that many were used to playing in crucial Champions League matches on some of Europe's biggest stages.
But with England's fans likely to be heavily outnumbered - police estimate official travelling support could be as low as 3,000 - there is a danger the match could become a flashpoint if the co-hosts are knocked out.
Assistant chief constable Andy Holt, head of the British policing operation in Ukraine, said: "We always knew that if England ended up in the last game of the group stage playing Ukraine and both need something out of the game, it would be a very tense atmosphere.
"This will be the most challenging operation in Ukraine thus far and we'll be working really hard with our Ukrainian colleagues to do all we can to make sure England supporters are safe and appropriately policed."
The British police and the Football Association are also worried Russian fans could complicate the security plans for the match by wearing England shirts, making it harder to segregate the supporters and identify the cause of any possible disturbances in the stands.
Despite all these concerns, the England players looked extremely relaxed as they took a stroll around the pitch at the Donbass Arena on Monday night.
In stark contrast to the atmosphere during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the players seem happy and united here.
Asked about the team spirit, captain Steven Gerrard emphasised the "professional" attitude being adopted by all the team. But there has also been talk of quiz nights, meals out in Krakow's delightful restaurants and players enjoying each other's company in a way that simply hasn't happened in previous tournaments.
All that could change very quickly if results go the wrong way - and the two goals conceded against Sweden suggests this team are not about to become world-beaters.
But, given where Hodgson started from, things could hardly have gone much better. Reach the quarter-finals and most people will reflect on a successful first tournament in charge.
For Ukraine, there's so much more at stake.